Canada scored three times in the first period and coasted to a 3-1 win over Switzerland to set up a gold-medal game against the United States on Wednesday.
Two of those goals came from Natalie Spooner, who scored her first two career Olympic goals.
“I’ve been around the net a lot in this tournament and not been able to put them in, so it was good to finally score two goals,” she enthused afterwards.
The win gives Canada a place in the gold-medal game on Wednesday against the Americans. Canada is trying to become only the third team to win four Olympic medals in a row in hockey. Canada’s men did it from 1920 to 1932, and the Soviet Union did it 1964 to 1976.
The result was the best yet for the Swiss against Canada. Indeed, although Canada outshot the Swiss 48-22, it didn’t score for the final 48 minutes of the game. Florence Schelling was nothing short of sensational in net for the Swiss, and Canada simply could not score on its many first-class opportunities.
“We had a little breakdown in the first for a few minutes,” said Schelling. “That basically killed our chances of another victory today. We fought until the very end, though, so it was a great team effort. We can be very proud, although I’m sure the girls are a little disappointed. We didn’t have any pressure. We didn’t have anything to lose.”
“I think we played a good game,” opined Canada’s Mélodie Daoust. “We went out in the first period, got in their face and we just need to get better in our own zone and play a full 60 minutes. I don’t think we held back. We did our best, but it didn’t go our way all the time. The important thing is to keep building and be ready for the next game.”
Canada poured it on in the opening period by scoring three goals early and eliminating any Swiss hopes of an upset. Spooner got Canada on the board early when she swooped around the net unharmed and came out into the slot where she fired a shot to the top corner, beating Schelling at 7:29.
Three minutes later, Canada believed it had scored again when Caroline Ouellette put the puck in the net on a power play, but referee Erin Blair ruled a Canadian was in the crease and waived the goal off. No matter. After the next faceoff Spooner deflected a Brianne Jenner point shot at 11:10 to make it a 2-0 game.
Then, Daoust completed the first-period scoring when she tapped in her own rebound at 11:33. Coach Rene Kammerer called a timeout for the Swiss at that point, but the damage had been done.
The second period, though, marked another small but significant moment in Swiss history. Jessica Lutz scored on the power play for the Swiss, and Canada failed to reply. As a result, the Swiss won the period, 1-0, the first time ever the Swiss had won any 20-minute period from Canada.
Lutz’s goal came on a play where goalie Szabados thought she had covered the puck. The Swiss forced it free, and Lutz had an open net to push the puck in.
“When I scored, it was a little bit of a turning point,” Lutz noted. “It got some momentum, some emotion for us. I think we started to think, ‘Okay, we can really do this.’ We won that period. Overall, I think the game is a little bit of a disappointment for us. We were trying to win it. But this definitely brings some good, positive energy for the next game.”
“Within this tournament we’ve grown in confidence,” noted Julia Marty. “When we scored our goal we saw that we can actually play against Canada. But they are still professional players, faster and stronger than us. In the first period they took advantage of individual errors to score their goals.”
The period also featured some great goaltending. Alina Müller was robbed by Szabados, but Schelling took goals away from Marie-Philip Poulin and Spooner, both of whom had great chances from in close to restore Canada’s two-goal led.
In the third, Canada dominated but could not put another puck past Schelling. Notable stops included a close-in chance by Jenner and a breakaway by Spooner.
The Swiss will play Sweden for the bronze in two days’ time, and given their fine performance here, the play of Schelling, and the fact that they won bronze in 2012, the prospects are good for a team that only a few years ago was hardly to be considered a medal prospect.
“If we keep the pace up that we played today and keep that level of confidence up until we play Sweden, we’re going to have a very, very good chance of winning,” Schelling said.
“They’ve got a great team and great goalie,” offered Agosta. “We just kept coming. We stuck with our game plan, but they gave us a run for our money. It just goes to show you that women’s hockey is getting a lot better and a lot of teams are getting stronger and that’s what we want. It was a great team and I thought their team played well.”
IHLC: With the victory, Canada wins its second straight game in its current International Hockey Lineal Championship reign, its 30th overall, after winning the IHLC from the United States in the Preliminary Round finale on February 12. Canada, who last defeated Switzerland with the IHLC on the line in a 13-0 drubbing at the 2013 World Championships, will now advance to play their second consecutive Gold Medal Game against the United States, and fourth overall, with a potential streak of four straight Golds, and the IHLC, on the line.
07:29 – GOAL – Spooner (Wickenheiser)
09:02 – PEN – Bullo, tripping
10:53 – PEN – S. Benz, hooking
11:10 – PP GOAL – Spooner (Ward, Wickenheiser)
11:33 – GOAL – Daoust (Wakefield)
12:47 – PEN – team, too many players
20:47 – PEN – S. Marty, tripping
22:58 – PEN – Johnston, tripping
24:26 – PEN – Rougeau, hooking
25:14 – PP GOAL – Lutz (S. Benz, L. Benz)
28:55 – PEN – L. Benz, cross checking
31:08 – PEN – Apps, body checking
39:33 – PEN – Forster, tripping
41:56 – PEN – Hefford, hooking
50:54 – PEN – Watchorn, body checking
W: Szabados (21-22)
L: Schelling (45-48)
SHOTS ON GOAL
16+22+10 = 48
5+7+10 = 22
Goaltenders: Charline Labonté, Shannon Szabados. Defence: Laura Fortino, Jocelyne Larocque, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine Ward (A), Tara Watchorn. Forwards: Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Mélodie Daoust, Jayna Hefford, Haley Irwin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston, Caroline Ouellette (C), Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Jennifer Wakefield, Hayley Wickenheiser (A).
Goaltenders: Sophie Anthamatten, Florence Schelling. Defence: Livia Altmann, Laura Benz, Nicole Bullo, Sarah Forster, Angela Frautschi, Julia Marty (C), Lara Stalder, Sandra Thalmann. Forwards: Sara Benz (A), Romy Eggimann, Jessica Lutz, Stefanie Marty, Alina Müller, Katrin Nahbolz (A), Evelina Raselli, Phoebe Stanz, Anja Stiefel, Nina Waidacher.